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The Dartmouth
April 15, 2024 | Latest Issue
The Dartmouth

Edwards brings campaign to College

Former vice presidential candidate Sen. John Edwards, D-N.C., drew a standing ovation from a packed crowd Friday in Collis Commonground, where he urged students to combat poverty and fill what he called a "moral vacuum" in America.

The speech marked the fifth stop on Edwards' Opportunity Rocks college tour, a campaign that asks students to pledge 20 hours of service in their local communities.

"There's a reason that I'm not in Washington, D.C. It is because I am not going to count on the politicians to do this," Edwards said. "What we're going to do is we're going to rise up and be heard and start a grassroots movement in this country. It's you that can do something about this."

Edwards described the stories of low-income individuals he met in the last year.

"This notion, this stereotype that exists in America that people who live in America are lazy and irresponsible is a lie. I know it's a lie, because I have been with them for the last eight months," he said.

Since the 2004 election, Edwards has devoted his time to fighting poverty by starting an academic center for poverty studies at the University of North Carolina School of Law.

Edwards said that unexpected financial problems can be disastrous for families living in poverty.

"You know, bad things happen to all of us -- it's just the way life is. In my case, your wife gets sick," Edwards said, referring to wife Elizabeth Edwards, who was recently treated for breast cancer. "It's different for people like us who have something to fall back on because we survive. It's not easy, but we survive, we get through it, and we move on. Not so for people who live at or near the poverty line, because they have absolutely no cushion, nothing that will allow them to get through this."

Before his speech, Edwards worked with Dartmouth students and the COVER Home Repair and Reuse Program to do repairs on a poor single woman's house in the Upper Valley.

The Opportunity Rocks project will address community-specific poverty issues at each of its 10 college chapters, with Dartmouth's chapter focusing on affordable housing in the Upper Valley.

Collis Manager Mike Dovidio '07 said that Commonground was full at approximately 250 people. He estimated that another 120 people watched Edwards in the Collis TV lounge, while still another crowd watched a live video from Dartmouth Hall.